>Red Fife Graham Cracker, Sinful

>As noted in Wikapedia:

“The graham cracker (pronounced /ˈɡræm/ or /ˈɡreɪm/ or /ˈɡreɪ.əm/) was developed in 1829 in Bound Brook, New Jersey, by Presbyterian minister Rev. Sylvester Graham. Though called a cracker, it is sweet rather than salty and so bears some resemblance to a cookie—digestive biscuits are the closest approximation. The true graham cracker is made with graham flour, a combination of fine-ground white flour and coarse-ground wheat bran and germ. Graham crackers are often used for making s’mores and pie crusts.

Graham crackers were originally marketed as “Dr. Graham’s Honey Biskets” and were conceived of as a health food as part of the Graham Diet, a regimen to suppress what he considered unhealthy carnal urges, the source of many maladies according to Graham. Reverend Graham would often lecture about the adverse effects of masturbation or “self-abuse” as it was commonly called. One of his many theories was that one could curb one’s sexual appetite by eating bland foods. Another man who held this belief was Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, the inventor of the corn flakes cereal.

Many modern “graham crackers” are made of the refined, bleached white flour to which the Rev. Graham was implacably opposed. Some modern commercial graham crackers are no longer considered health food, but have remained popular as a snack food and breakfast cereal with greater amounts of sugar and other sweeteners than in the original recipe, and far less graham flour, often with no whole-wheat flour whatsoever. Cinnamon or chocolate may be added to enhance the flavor of the crackers. Technically, crackers are not really graham crackers unless they are made with graham flour, which is a hard whole-wheat flour in which the constituent bran, germ, and endosperm have been ground separately, the first two coarsely and the third finely. Cinnamon, not considered a true ingredient of graham crackers, was added for those who did not enjoy the bland taste of graham crackers.”

Red Fife whole wheat was a natural choice for us to use and we find it has the opposite effect to Graham’s original intention. Especially when dipped into melted chocolate and added to toasted marshmallows.

Why Red Fife? Well, this heritage wheat represents traditional methods of farming that involve human elements in its growing and harvesting, almost in artisan ways. These heritage grains naturally go against all methods of modern farming by growing at uneven hights (virtually making large scale harvesting impossible), having the ability to plant seeds from this year’s harvest for next year (no need to buy seeds) and because the entire grain is ground where natural proteins and vitamins are present, (which are often added to sifted grain). Not to mention whole milled grains are more perishable therefore ground in smaller batches and as a result are fresher. All great reasons to source heritage grains, even better to find local and organic ones.

>Impulse Buy of the Week: Evelyn’s Crackers Spicy Dal Spelt Sticks

(posted by Shelf Life, a monthly addition to the Canadian National Post Newspaper)

Lately Shelf Life has been on a hummus kick. This is a very good thing, not least because our newfound love of the chickpea has helped us bond with our vegan friends. Now we can bring something else to the vegan party – these Certified Organic crackers made from whole spelt flour and lentils. We like the fact that these are local products, and that Evelyn’s Crackers supports Ontario farmers. We’re charmed by their freshness, and by their healthy-yet-snazzy taste, not too spicy nor too timid. They’re sturdy enough to handle cheese, subtle enough to enhance the basics – say, peanut butter and green onions – and ready to crumble in soups or salads. Then too, as the package suggests, there’s a whole realm of hummus and dips to explore. Shelf Life would match these crackers with a creamy dill dip, or maybe a tzatziki – and then we’d race over to the hummus. Lately we’ve become enamored of Jerusalem/masala-type chickpea spreads; these turn out to be absolutely delectable with Evelyn’s crunchy snaps. Vegans, your planet is full of strange and wonderful taste sensations.


(Evelyn’s Crackers can be found in three dozen fine food stores and cheese shops in and around Toronto. You can meet us in person and try all of our crackers at the Wychwood and Brickworks Farmers markets every Saturday morning from 8am to 1pm. Contact us (evelynscrackers@gmail.com) and view ourwebsite for more information about new locations and our creative holiday catering and cooking classes.)

>Dawn’s The Baker…And So Much More

Dawn had a wonderful mention in the Woman’s Culinary Network’s newsletter this past February written by Naomi Duguid:

“Dawnthebaker” is Dawn Woodward’s hotmail account name, and that is how I often think of her, kneading a dough, shaping a cracker, slashing a baguette, setting and inventive and delicious tart out on a plate for a catered event.

Of course there is far more to Dawn than baking, but she did come into our lives with her baker’s cap on. I first met her more than 10 years ago, at an artisanal baking conference at Greystone, the CIA’s Napa campus. She was living in Toronto at the time, working as a consultant at Ace Bakery. They’d brought her up from the States because of her gleaming credintials and experience: 5 years and finalist in the competition for spots on the US Baking Team that ended up bring back the gold medal at the World Baking competition in Paris in 1997.

She left Ace that fall and came traveling me to India. We spent the millennium turnover together at Kovalam Beach near Trivandrum in sourthern Kerala, India. Dawn shared a room with my two kids, then boys of 9 and 12, played with us all on the beach, went running with me in the mornings, and danced with us late into the night as the clock turned us into the year 2000.

A few days later she put on her pack and headed north to travel through India, before flying to Thailand and traveling in northern Thailand, Laos, and China’s Yunnan Province all on her own.

She’s brave, is Dawn, and travels with her eyes and her palate open. I still have notes she sent me of foods she tasted in Gujarat on that trip, notes that were very helpful to me when I finally made it there four years later. After that long adventure she returned to the US. A second solo trip took her to Syria and Lebanon, as well as Turkey and the Republic of Georgia. In all those places she came accross interesting food; later she developed recipes drawing on all that travel experience. After she returned from that trip she spent a good chunk of the winter here in Toronto helping me with the recipe work for HomeBaking. She returned to the US and started working in Washington DC, finally settling at Obelisk, a fine Italian restaurant.

In 2003 she met Chef Ed Rek in DC. They moved to Philadelphia and married the following year. After restaurant and catering work, and developing a good reputation in Philly, they moved to Toronto in the fall of 2007. By then they were three; there daughter Evelyn was born in the Spring of 2006. In Toronto they settled near Dufferin Grove Park, and Dawn started to work on her business idea, a cracker business.

In the Spring of 2008 they launched Evelyn’s Crackers, using local organic grains and other local ingredients, making the crackers by hand in the incubator kitchen, and selling them at farmer’s markets. They’ve had rave reviews, and now have a solid following. Dawn continues to fine-tune the crackers, adding new ones and tweaking the originals. These days she also makes sweets, using the same organic grains (red Fife flour figures largely) to make shortbreads and cookies.

While getting the cracker business growing, Dawn and Ed have also been busy with the local food movement, promoting local grains and consumer awareness of the wealth of Ontario agriculture. Most recently Dawn was a speaker at a forum held by the ROM called “Canadian Sweet Treats”. After her presentation on the hisory of maple syrup, Red Fife wheat, Mackintosh apples, and Amish and Mennonite settlements, the chair of the events said, “It took and American to give us a lesson in Ontario’s food history!”.

Naomi Duguid is a cook, cookbook author, food writer, photographer, and past recipient of the Women’s Culinary Network Woman of the Year. Her website: http://www.immersethrough.com/

>Evelyn’s Crackers and Leslie Stowe

>CanadianLiving.com had a recent article about…

you guessed it, cheese and crackers.

Do you want to go two-for-two?.

Guess who’s crackers were mentioned. article

>More than a Cracker…

Well, we can’t seem to leave the local grains well enough alone.

Red Fife short bread cookies just came out of the oven and taste like warm pie crust, buttery and sweet.

Also, some cornmeal biscotti with almonds are in the final bake of the twice baked cookie. Dawn wasn’t pleased with how the biscotti turned out, but I have to say freshly baked biscotti is fabulous. (Corn meal vs. corn flour next time.)

And last but not least, since we have the corn flour , a new cracker for the weekend! Equal parts corn flour, red fife whole wheat and rye. Good texture, a wonderful chew from the grains and I get funny looks when I say reminiscent of corn flakes. Really good corn flakes. If they tasted like a cracker.

A little back and forth over the name for the new corn cracker. And since I make the labels, I liked my choice best. We will see how it sells tomorrow and if it lasts the next round of cuts. Runners up were: So Corny; Corn Fife and Rye (play on corn beef and rye); Shucked Goodness; Edible Ears and It Ain’t Popcorn.

>Immerse Through Crackers

We rely on our friends and family for many things and as new small business owners, sometimes we cross the line. Like the time our daughter, 2 at the time, ran around the Brick Works farmers market with a t-shirt that read: “Evelyn’s Crackers, we put the crack in crackers.

(photo (c)2008 Edmund Rek)

Quickly becoming infamous with the last minute call for baby-sitting mostly by friends, as our family are in the States, every once and while someone will come to the kitchen and help with cracker production, as did Naomi:

On Tuesday afternoon I did a short shift with Dawnthebaker at the Incubator Kitchen making crackers for Evelyn’s Crackers (named after fabulous Evelyn, Dawn and Ed’s three=year=old daughter). The crackers are hand-made, truly made by hand. The dough is mixed by machines, then divided into pieces which are hand-shaped, then run, piece by piece, through a sheeter, a machine like a pasta-maker that squeezes it flat. Each sheet of dough on its individual piece of parchment paper is stacked on the last and then when the stack is high, it’s put aside to chill while the rest of the dough is flattened. At this stage we’re not nearly halfway in the hand-work.

The chilled sheets come back out and then once again, one by one, are put carefully through the sheeter, now set to a thinner setting. They double in area (and fragility too, of course). Once again, after all the sheets in the stack have been run through the sheeter and then restacked, the stack gets set aside in the cooler while the remaining stacks are run through.

Then it’s time for the final pre-baking hand-work: Sheet by sheet the crackers are cut. You take the pizza-cutter-like roller and run it in straight lines down the dough, trying to space them evenly and keep them straight. For the cheese crackers that we were making there were six or seven lines vertically and about 11 horizontally per baking sheet of dough. No wonder Dawn feels her wrists get tired! I felt it more in my back, because the work is assymetrical, when you bend sideways over the sheet to do the cross-wise cuts.

After each sheet is cut into crackers, it is pulled over onto the stack of already sliced dough. Once the stack is tall, it is covered with plastic, tightly sealed, and frozen. The baking will take place next day or sometime in the next week. And baking too means handling the crackers sheet by sheet, putting them into the oven, and then taking them out and leaving them on a rack to cool and crisp up.

Now that all sounds long, doesn’t it? And yet it’s just a description, with no details, really.

Dawn does all this physical labour with grace and strength and skill. Sometimes Ed is there working with her, or a less-skilled sidekick like me, but most often she’s there on her own, either making and shaping crackers, or else baking.

When we were there together, she could get crackers baked while I shaped (and she was often over helping with the shaping process in between baking chores). The lovely scent of her Barley Noir crackers perfumed the space as we worked, and the spicy Dal Crackers too added their aroma when they were baked.

The thing about the cracker production, the thing that is valuable (apart from the fact that they are made from local and organic ingredients, and that they taste wonderful and are a treat to eat), is the hand-made-ness. It creates an entirely different cracker population. They are NOT all the same. For though each batch is made from one dough, the fact that they are rolled out and cut by hand, sheet by sheet, cut by cut, means that the crackers each have a personality and clear identity. There’s kind of a “every snowflake is unique” quality to them.

So while the goal of industrial production and chain restaurants is complete consistency and uniformity, the goal of hand-crafted anything, from crackers, to clothing, to furmiture, to home-cooking, is individual distinctiveness within a recognisable form. That’s why we love home-made food. And that’s what we lose if we buy “food” that has been extruded and cut and shaped by highly industrial processes.

People say, but this is elitist, this emphasis on the hand-crafted; processed food is cheaper. But it’s not. Home-made food, each of us starting with basic ingredients at home, is the least expensive and best. Next in line is food made by someone we know, made with care and attention. And as we tried to emphasise in our book HomeBaking, let’s not, as home cooks, start to think that our food should look like food that is made by machine, all “perfect” and predictable. Let’s treasure the unpredictable, the individual, the idiosyncratic.

(written by Naomi Duguid, cookbook author and one of the best reasons to live in Toronto/her blog/her website)

>Evelyn’s Crackers at Scheffler’s in St. Lawrence

We are happy to announce Evelyn’s Crackers is now available at Scheffler’s Deli and Cheese and St Lawrence Market’s south building. An upscale family run business specializing in many wonderful imported cheeses, meats, olives, oils, etc.

I did a demo of the crackers there this weekend and many people were happy to sample a product made from local organic grains and see how versatile they were with dips and cheese. The owners are Odysseas and Sandra have a great sense of humor and seem to really enjoy the hustle and bustle of the busy Saturday market. Be sure to ask for them by name when you stop by.